Yoga versus Salah

Both Muslims and non-Muslims should ponder over its benefits, experience the blessings of sujood and practice it. Doors of Islam (peace) are open for all

By Zaira Ashraf Khan


“Rejuvenate with Yoga: It enriches the consciousness and makes one alert, aware and active. Live life to its full potential.” – [Min. of AYUSH Govt. of India], reads one of the many other messages that I receive on daily basis.

Yoga drive was initiated by the government of India as a compulsory physical exercise in schools. Followed by a slight change, so that, it can satisfy anyone and everyone. Among this, a special concession was for Muslims, that the name of Allah should be taken instead of conventional words that are chanted otherwise, for instance, Om, representing religion of Hinduism and constitutes an integral part of this tradition.

Ever since Muslims retaliated to this Yoga-drive, certain text messages are showing up almost every day emphasizing benefits of Yoga and this is no coincidence, by the way. This is simply to desensitize us and letting yoga sneak into our lives. I would try to respond to it in my own way and the stage is open for disagreement.

Basically, as far as physical exercise is concerned, for the past hundreds of years yoga has never been a course for physical well being in schools and colleges. Though it has become one in the Modi government.

On December 11, 2014, the 193-member United Nations General Assembly approved by consensus a resolution establishing June 21 as ‘International Day of Yoga’. The declaration of this day came after the call for the adoption of June 21 as International Day of Yoga by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his address to UN General Assembly on September 27, 2014.

Though there are numerous and multifarious exercises available whose results even surpasses yoga. Casting a glance at the history of yoga, we discover that it has originated from East and speculates to date back to pre-Vedic Indian traditions, but most likely developed around the sixth and fifth centuries B.C, in ancient India’s ascetic circles. In Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism the word yoga means ‘spiritual discipline’ which is basically unification of the body, mind and breath.

As far as Salah is concerned, its spiritual and scientific benefits in releasing the stress and calming mind is mind boggling only if we understand it.


Spiritual benefits of Salah

Remembrance of Allah: Salah connects us to our creator and we are always in tune with His commandments and conscious of our duties towards Him. Allah says, “Verily! I am Allah! La ilaha illa Ana (none has the right to be worshipped but I), so worship Me, and perform As-Salat for My Remembrance.” (Taha, Chapter 20, Verse 14)

Stress reliever:  Salah has great potential of relieving one from stress. The verses of Quran act therapeutic and strengthen us from within; presents the reality of life and assures us of Allah’s help. Allah says, “And seek help in patience and As-Salah and truly it is extremely heavy and hard except for Al-Khashi’un [i.e. the true believers in Allah – those who obey Allah with full submission, fear much from His Punishment, and believe in His Promise (Paradise) and in His Warnings (Hell)]”. ( Al-Baqara, Chapter 2, Verse 45).

“O you who believe! Seek help in patience and As-Salat (the prayer). Truly! Allah is with As-Sabirun (the patient).” (Al-Baqara, Chapter 2, Verse 153).

Programming towards righteousness: Salah acts as a shield against sins and directs our focus on righteous acts draining all negative aspects and elevating us spiritually. Allah says, “Recite (O Muhammad [PBUH]) what has been revealed to you of the Book (the Qur’an), and perform As-Salah. Verily, As-Salah prevents from Al-Fahisha’ (immodest acts) and Al-Munkar (every kind of evil wicked deed)…” ( Al-Ankaboot, Chapter 29, Verse 45)

Every Command of Allah has immense benefits both physical and psychological, apart from spiritual benefits and so does Salah.

To list some of them:

The best part of Salah is the sujood (the prostration). It is when we place highest part of our body to the lowest level in front of the Lord of the worlds. It humbles and wards off diseases of the heart, like ego, arrogance, envy etc. Apart from it, salah holds scientific benefits too. When we go into sujood, extra blood flows into the brain, which is very important for a healthy brain. Moreover the blood supply to the skin prevent diseases such as chilblain, sinusitis (inflammation of the sinus) etc.

When a person does sujood even the secretion of the bronchitis, they get drained, and thus there are less chances of having bronchitis. Moreover, the residual air is aired out during sujood, which is important for a healthy lung.

In a salah, we stand up and we sit down; do qayam, rukuh, sujood and when we stand up from same position, the weight is localized on the bottom of the feet and the calf muscle and the thigh muscle are activated and they increase the blood supply to the lower part of the body, which is very important. Further, we do various postures like standing erect, bowing down, prostrating, the vertebra column takes various postures and there are less chances of having disease of the vertebrae, of the spine.

Hygiene: What better representation of hygiene is other than ablution five times a day, washing each part minimum 15 times, is best even for maintaining hygiene in students.

Increases work productivity: Salah increases the work productivity. According the rules of management, a person cannot work continuously for hours together. That is the reason that there are some short breaks given in between. So a person can get re-created. It rejuvenates us and thus we work with a much better frame of mind and thus the overall productivity will be much better. So, for a logical and a modern person, he has to agree that there should be breaks so that a person can get recreated and Salah is the best form of rejuvenating your mind.

Racism: Malik el–Shabazz (Malcom X) appreciated the brotherhood in Islam. In one of his interviews, he said, “it is impossible for America to solve the race problems. Never have I seen such sincere hospitality and overwhelming spirit of true brotherhood as is practiced by people of all colours and races here in this ancient holy land the home of Abraham, Muhammad and all the other prophets of the holy scriptures (peace be upon them)… America needs to understand Islam because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem.”

The best representation of brotherhood is in salah, wherein all stand in a row and no difference is made whatsoever.

Tailpiece: Salah earns its importance in making us aware of our creator and disciplining us. We do not practice salah for physical and scientific reasons, benefits though cannot be negated.

Therefore, my response to such messages is- that Allah has ordained on us something much better than Yoga, that rejuvenates and calms our mind; and that is, salah (which is a benefit for the entire humanity).

Both Muslims and non-Muslims should ponder over its benefits, experience the blessings of sujood and practice it. Doors of Islam (peace) are open for all.

(The author is research scholar, Department of Islamic Studies, University of Kashmir)

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